Inside the Class of '06: Vondrell McGee

The 10th in a daily series of 25 interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '06: Signee Vondrell McGee.

Vondrell McGee
Running back
Longview High School
NR: 23 SR: 20 Star Rating: ****

An Inside Texas conversation with Longview head coach John King on Vondrell McGee:

IT: What are Vondrell’s strengths as a football player?

King: Well, Vondrell can do so many things with the football, he's a great running back as well as being a good receiver out of the backfield. He's one of those guys that can make his cuts full speed. It's almost like he gains a step when he makes the cuts. A very fluid, physical runner and he's just hard to tackle in the open field. He's got the power to run over you and has got the elusiveness to make you miss.

IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Vondrell?

King: Talking with coach Rucker, he talked about how well he practiced, how well he handled himself with all the attention he had gotten as a junior and how he just continued to work each and every day. Ya know, he's a special young man that's got great talent and he never let any of it get to his head and he just continues to work.

IT: A lot of times you hear about a sophomore or junior athlete that is very talented but they don't continue to work as hard as they did at one time because they receive so many accolades. Does that speak to Vondrell's work ethic that he was able to continue to work to get better and practice hard.

King: Vondrell knows there's improvements that he needs to make in his game and he's never shied away from any competition. Even when (Texas) had the early commitments from the other running backs, he was the third one to commit, and the fact that they had early commitments from other guys never deterred him from playing at The University of Texas. He looked at it as making him better, and that's just the kind of attitude he has.

IT: He took it as a challenge?

King: Yes, and he's never backed down from a challenge. When he's challenged and when he's put in tight spots is when he's at his best. Having to play at the level of competition he's fixin' to have to play at, there's no telling how good he'll be.

IT: You said earlier that he understands that there are things that he needs to improve on. What are the things that you see and the things that he's working on?

King: Well, to play running back at The University of Texas, you're going to have to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield, which he's good at, but you're also going to have to pick up protections and blitzes, and that's something that will be new to him. As far as the ability to run the football and things like that, he's going to have to learn to do things different at Texas than maybe he did at Longview High School because just the level of competition. Things are going to change, there's going to be a different speed of competition, and things that he may have been able to get away on the field at Longview, he'll not get away with at Texas. It'll take time to get that out but he'll look and see it and be able to evaluate himself on film and make those adjustments.

IT: What's he doing right now to prepare for getting to Austin in June?

King: Well, he's running track and he's lifting weights at a health club here in Longview. Vondrell's course work has gotten better since he committed to Texas. It's like the light going on. Instead of being a B-C student he's an A-B student, just taking care of his business and learning responsibility, turning in his packet he has to turn in for admissions and so forth. He's taken care of all of that and plans on being down there as soon as he graduates. You don't have to worry about him being ready. He's one of those that's going to do what he's got to do to get ready.

IT: Can you describe his style of running when he has the ball in his hands?

King: Very fast. He just plays at a different speed than everybody else. Having watched him the last two years run the ball for things, and us that he does, he makes it look so easy. I watched him play in the Max Emfinger All-Star game and the first time he touches the ball, he's faster than everyone else on the field. I never really realized it till I'm watching him play when I'm not coach. He touches it and wham! When he got it you just felt the electricity. It's a unique style, and he's going to be wide open when he touches it and the more he touches it, the stronger he gets. That's just the type of player that he is.

IT: Is Vondrell a guy you want out in space?

King: You want Vondrell in space. It's hard for people to tackle him one-on-one. I think that is what everyone is evolving too, basically the spread idea and getting people in space. There's going to be times to play smash mouth power football, and he's one of those guys, when he's got the ball and he's in the open field, he's dangerous. He's a difference maker.

IT: Is he a guy that can also run between the tackles?

King: Yeah, we did both with him. We were a two-back team that ran a lot of powers and leads and inside zone. He's run that for the last two years. And really, some of the things we did, we did to compliment his running style. He didn't need a whole lot. He needs a crease, he didn't need a hole. He can find a crease and he makes people miss and he's always north and south, so I think that whatever they're trying to do with him, depending on their scheme of things, he'll find a away to fit.

IT: What all did you do with him positionally?

King: We used the same personnel groupings with everything we did. We would be in two-back, whether it be one tight end, or two, or three. Of course when we went to the spread we would move him out. We wanted to put him in space and throw him the ball, make defenders tackle him out there. He's got great hands, he can run good routes, and he can make plays in the throwing game. He's probably a better receiver than a lot of people realize just because we didn't throw it 40 or 50 times a game. We were a 15 to 18 times a game team, and a lot of those were to him. He's very versatile. Whether they want to play him in the backfield or out wide -- we even worked him some at cornerback and safety, because we wanted our best players on the field. He liked that. He wanted to be on the field. He wanted to play.

IT: One of those guys that likes the ball in his hands?

King: He wants the ball. That he does. Great kick returner. Averaged over 35 yards this year on kick returns. Now, they didn't kick to him but about eight times and that's over the course of the year. He's definitely one of those that wants the ball, but he's never pouted or complained when he didn't get it. He's just one of those guys that you can look at him and tell, he'll give you that body language like, It's time for me to touch it. Then, he's ready.

IT: Did the Texas coaches give you an indication how they plan on using him?

King: I know they're going to play him at running back and I'm sure he'll get his chances at returning kicks.

IT: What did Vondrell mean to your football program?

King: The thing about Vondrell, he had the type of attitude being such a high profile kid for our team, our guys enjoyed playing with him as much as anything. Here's a guy that's a marked guy, and we've got to protect him, but there was no jealous bones from anybody about all the attention he received. He's a quiet guy that just went about doing his business. Like I said, he's not real vocal, not real emotional, he was just kinda, when it was time to play, it was time to play. That was kind of the attitude of our football team. He was real close to his senior class. We had 36 seniors that graduated that were as close as any group I've been around. The whole mentality of the thing is how Vondrell is, nothing really got to him. They would be themselves and do their deal, but when it was time to compete they would compete. Of course, having him on your football team, you always have that weapon and he was a great running back, set some school records, he's a crowd favorite. It's amazing the attention he's gotten. From three-year olds to 83-year olds, they know who Vondrell McGee is. I get more compliments and emails about his demeanor off the field, about how well he conducted himself, which just speaks volumes about the kind of kid he is. He was a big part of why were undefeated the last two years in the regular season. He was a difference maker.

IT: What are his current measurables?

King: He's 5-9, 185, 190. We've timed him 4.3-something. I think they timed him in the 4.3s at the UT camp this past summer.

IT: Based on his body style, do you think his current size is ideal for him?

King: I don't think he'll get too much heavier. Vondrell's pretty well put together to be a 17-year old kid. He may reach the 200-pound range, but not much more. He's probably as well developed right now as I've seen a high school kid.

IT: With that size, you sometimes see running backs at the next level get lost (to the defense) behind those mammoth offensive lines.

King: [Laughing] He's going to get lost some behind some of (the offensive linemen) down at Texas, I can tell you that. They've got some men down there to be in front of him. He'll wiggle and get behind them, and he's gonna get lost in there and find a crease and pop out of nowhere. Running style, you hate to compare him to all these guys, but he's a Barry Sanders-type runner. He's hard to tackle and he can do so many things with the football.

IT: How do you see him fitting into the team environment in Austin?

King: He'll be a perfect fit down there for the type of players that they're recruiting. He's one of those guys, you won't have to worry about him being out all hours of the night on Sixth Street. He'll probably be in his room playing PlayStation or something. He's just a genuine, All-American kid. He's got a good mother and daddy that have taken care of him and really raised him the right way. I think he's the type of player that they're recruiting and he's one of the guys that's going to keep them where they're at.

Also see:

UT's Signing Day bio: A prep Parade All-American and a two-time all-state pick who rushed for 3,400 yards and 44 TDs over his last two seasons … earned second-team 5A all-state honors from The Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association as a senior … tabbed 5A Region II Offensive MVP … named district 12-5A Offensive MVP … earned first-team all-district honors … a second-team all-Texas selection … tabbed 2005 all-East Texas MVP … rushed for 1,361 yards and 17 TDs on 163 carries (8.3 ypc) … also had 11 receptions for 160 yards and five kickoff returns for 274 yards … helped Longview to a 10-1 record … earned third-team all-state honors from The Associated Press as a junior … named first-team all-district 12-5A … tabbed first-team all-East Texas … rushed for 2,039 yards and 27 TDs … the 27 TDs is a Longview High School record … helped Longview to a 12-1 record in 2004 … also competed in track and field … ran the 100m and sprint relays … played basketball as a freshman and sophomore … is active in community service … participated in Red Ribbon week for drug prevention … assisted with youth car washes and litter projects … enjoys basketball and weightlifting … father, Victor, played QB at West Texas State and for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League … full name is Vondrell M. McGee … born on July 18, 1988 in Longview, Texas.

"Not many people get to go to a good school like that. It's great because everybody gets along and everybody really likes the coaches. Now we can come in and be a part of something special."


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